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What I Learned Selling SEO (+ How It Made Me A Better Marketer)

September 16, 2022
Bill May
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2 minutes

In the past decade or so I’ve worked as a journalist, editor, copywriter, SEO specialist, sales account lead, and marketing generalist (plus additional resume-stuffers, mercifully excluded here). The collection of perspectives gained through those experiences seems to lend themselves to approaching novel problems from unique angles. At the same time, there’s an unmistakable comfort that comes from having a solid understanding of multiple areas of expertise, along with the ability to draw upon them as needed.

Through it all I’ve maintained a voracious appetite for learning, which has included (but isn’t limited to) self-study in communication, marketing, and user experience.

In my first SEO role at a full-service agency, I was responsible for growing websites with lean content strategies – which gave me a well-rounded understanding of what it takes to trim the fat and keep traffic and leads humming.

In my role in SEO sales,  I worked directly with business owners and c-suite professionals from a wide range of industries – from small businesses to national brands. I learned the challenges and opportunities accompanying each, and developed a keen sense for tailoring strategies to get the most out of limited resources.

Valuable lessons I learned selling SEO:

  • Listening to how the client views their business and its goals, then distilling it into a workable strategy for the team 
  • How to quickly assess a website and its digital marketing needs
  • The ins and outs of different types of SEO (local, ecommerce, etc.), and how to package them for clients
  • How to have frank conversations about sensitive topics like pricing or a strategy that wasn't working
  • The importance of being nimble and adapting on the fly
  • The correlation between SMART business goals and a good SEO strategy

Being the mediator between business executives and marketing teams creates a unique responsibility of holistic accountability—to the business, the agency, and the people involved.

Good marketers have empathy

All of these experiences have given me a multi-faceted perspective on what it takes to be successful in today’s digital landscape. I’ve learned to bridge the gaps between client expectation, available opportunity, and reasonable ROI while keeping production scopes manageable internally. And I’m excited to put that knowledge back to work on the SEO side (and to learn new lessons every day). 

I'm glad my path led me back to being an SEO practitioner. I’ve always been interested in the puzzle-solving nature of SEO and the ever-changing landscape keeps things fresh. I like getting under the hood to see how things work and finding creative solutions to unique challenges. I like the "doing" part.

In SEO I’ve found a role that engages my compulsion to write and tempers it with a deep attraction toward data analysis, strategy, and the psychology behind intent. Fitting the pieces together—there’s some sort of magic in that. 

It’s strange and cool to be a part of the cycle of helping people navigate websites and find content better, helping businesses and organizations learn to make their content work with people and search engines. 

If you look at Google as a machine built to help people find answers, then the best way to help those people is to give the right answers. Now I’m off to find the questions.

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